Pedantic Literalist

Prince Rupert's drop, paper muslin ghost,
    White torch— “with power to say unkind
Things with kindness, and the most
        Irritating things in the midst of love and
             Tears,” you invite destruction.

You are like the meditative man
    With the perfunctory heart; its
Carved cordiality ran
To and fro at first like an inlaid and royal
             Immutable production;

Then afterward “neglected to be
    Painful, deluding him with
Loitering formality,”
        “Doing its duty as if it did it not,”
             Presenting an obstruction

To the motive that it served. What stood
    Erect in you has withered. A
Little “palm-tree of turned wood”
        Informs your once spontaneous core in its
             Immutable production.

From Observations (The Dial Press, 1924) by Marianne Moore. This poem is in the public domain.